Day 90 Saturday, April 3, 2010: “Wonderful World (Don’t Know Much)”


Today is April 3, 2010 and I have 90 days left at the Mont—and even fewer if teachers agree to the proposed furlough days.


The situation is driven home in ways I did not expect. Monday, in teaching about imperialism. I spoke about people being patronizing when they talked to students; besides frustration, I heard the same names of teachers—coincidentally of teachers who reapplied. “She says, ‘We’re not ready to learn.’


Most folk don’t get this about me. They think because I do historical reenactment for a hobby, I make excuses to dress up in costume, and that all I really care about is the Middle Ages. How wrong they are. I can, like any real history teacher, wallow in any time period.


But the ideas I like to talk about with the kids are about cultural diversity—and the flip side, prejudice. Maybe it is because I can relate: the son of Ukrainian immigrants who moved to Canada and had me.


And Thursday we talked about face (dealing with China) and will do so again on Monday (Japan). I explained the concept of face in a number of ways, but it was those same students “who are not ready to learn” who were able to apply the concept of face to my

reasons not to reapply. So much for not being ready to learn, eh?


I watch men on campus who normally do not wear suits do so, and women dressing up more, as if they knew administrators were going to come observe them. Are they doing it for the “sweet, young faces” they look into? Or maybe they are going to interviews? Clearly people are nervous about what is happening and want so desperately to keep teaching at Fremont. I understand that feeling. I’ve had some tell me they’ll miss me (and I’ll miss them) and others tell me they are not reapplying. No one knows for sure. Not the office, with their bloated numbers. Not the Committee to Save Fremont (CSF, which I privately refer to as the Rebel Alliance—oops, not so private now), with their/our counterclaims.


In the mean time, I watch teachers like Terra Bennett, who’s career is just beginning, resign rather than subject herself to the intimidation to reapply or be bounced from the district. She out right now, as I write this, doing a community walk, to save the Fremont she’s not even going to BE AT NEXT YEAR! By the way, her story got re-posted, without my pompous blathering at:

Others are returning to grad school, being driven out of the profession.


In the mean time, I watch teachers I greatly respected being forced to retire rather than watch the bastardization of Fremont. I think of Mary, who single-handedly transformed the library, the library we fought long and hard for ten years ago, which will not have her sister Claudia, an AP English teacher, take up the torch, but rather a classified worker, be in there; the library will become just a room with books. I think of Sam, who we used to joke whenever we saw each other, “Hey, you still work here?” A couple of months ago, we looked at each other and just couldn’t say it, because right now it isn’t very damned funny. I think of Rita Moraca, Humanimama, telling us at the SLC meeting she is being forced to retire, while we are discussing the twentieth anniversary of Humanitas on campus. We’ll be having the Twentieth Reception—and the Final Reception—sometime in June; a large group of alumni were planning to attend, anyway; now it’s a wake. Yes, she is being pushed out the door, but what she’ll see left at Fremont won’t be the Humanitas program she built over twenty years; there will be a Humanitas Academy (if they learn to spell it right), but it will resemble nothing we built, merely using the name. I think about Claudia, Joel, Frank, Matt, Rick and Riley and the many other fine Magnet teachers who will also be leaving; the Magnet program will be gutted. As has been observed, the MagnetAcademy will continue. In name only. What will be left of Humanitas and Magnet (remember the other SLCs are gone as of July 1) will be shadows. Mockeries. To think in terms of Star Trek TNG, the Borg will assimilate them: human shapes, but not human. What we built will not be there. Something masquerading as what we started will be there. And the other SLCs? A.O.T.T, which some people want to remain for? Gone. Not even the name remaining. Pathways, which Erica Hamilton got started and which became a really solid program? Gone. Earth? Gone. A.I.R.? Gone Enrichment, which grew out of the 9th grade house (which returns, even though nobody seemed to learn the lessons of why it did not work as intended)? Gone. The C.A.L.A.s, A and B? Gone. Those who remain talk about doing for the kids, but they won’t have those students. Will they be the mentors to the new teachers? Aren’t they compromised by being part of the Old Fremont, the same Old Fremont that was so bad (but not the worst school in LAUSD) it led to the dismissal of the entire staff because of the “culture of failure” we created? The War on Ignorance is producing a lot of casualties…


I am not a monster. I am not hell-bent upon obstruction to reform and the destruction of Fremont. I’m the one who used to dub teachers who used movies in the classroom every week “Captain Video” in an effort to move them away from that practice. I’m the one who shares everything I have ever digitalized with every teacher in my field, hoping we can build up resources together. But I cannot follow others into those interviews.


First, to participate in the so-called “transparent and fair” process is to lend it legitimacy it does not possess. If you’ll forgive the history analogies I subject you to (occupational hazard), to involve oneself in the process is like participating in hearings before the HUAC. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was an investigative committee in the United States House of Representatives which was meant to look into suspected cases of subversion and disloyalty to the United States government. The committee's anti-communist investigations are often confused with those of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who had no direct involvement with this House committeeand was the chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. These were those folks who brought you the “Hollywood Ten” who were blacklisted by the entertainment industry (although their numbers swelled to more than 300 artists—including directors, radio commentators, actors and particularly screenwriters).  By merely answering questions, one became a participant in the process.


From what I am hearing from some who have interviewed, as well as student who is involved as interviewers. The panel for the “fair and transparent process” has students and parents who have read questions from a script (hey, are you guys staying at Fremont going to be teaching like that?). Minor problem: no teachers on the panel—and no administrators are even present. Does this mean that your fates are being decided by notes taken by a student based upon your answers to a couple of questions (I have confirmation of situations where only two questions were asked). Then those notes or a verbal analysis of those notes will go to Mr. Balderas, who, with his access to “confidential information” (see Magnet Chronicles) will decide who stays and who goes? Is this what you are basing the future of your career on? A side note: how do those students feel? How were they selected? Was this based on grades? Was this based upon ethnicity? Gender? How was the “data” sliced and examined to determine which students would be interviewers? One of my students who is an interviewer gets very uncomfortable whnever the topic comes up.


Is this the “process” that we were told about in January? No.


At that time, we were told we would have to bring “evidence” of CST scores for several years, periodic assessments (where applicable), attendance rates, previous Stull evaluations, and even evidence of “volunteerism,” whatever that is supposed to mean. We were supposed to jump through flaming hoops and stand on one leg while teaching all of humanity’s accumulated wisdom, all the while connecting this to the appropriate standard and engaging in “meaningful dialog”.


But we are not doing that, are we?


Certainly such a process would “weed out” a number of teachers, or “cut them from the herd,” or feel free to insert whatever Educational Darwinism lingo you care to. It all amounts to the same thing.


Then the unexpected happened. Some people chose not to reapply. Some chose not to play that game. It led to a petition (I still call it The Pledge), rallies outside the Mont, actually engaging the community (which was not allowed to meet on campus February 11 and had to meet at Praises of Zion Church), this bully pulpit some of us have been using. It has led to Anthony Cody, reposting several of my musings and writing articles on reconstitution ( and Susan Ohanian doing likewise

( and the story being carried in Education Notes Online (  Scott Banks, a former Pathfinder who has gone on to much success at Marshall, wrote in our defense, reported by Anthony  ( A few “troublemakers,” the “group of teachers who always obstruct change” no longer are “a few”. We also helped to spread the word to the community when Open House was held Thursday, our B-Track brethren coming down to man the tables and pass out surveys. We’re fighting to save the Mont.


Maybe the administration—or whoever is actually in charge of this whole cluster(*)—felt they need to change the rules. To make it easier. To dumb it down.


When students perform badly on learning material, the easy way out is to “dumb it down.” But what have we gone through for years? We’ve been taught NOT to dumb it down. We’ve been taught to look at what we are doing and reassess. I have changed my teaching over the years. I remember teaching my kids, having them “take notes,” then to my horror discovering they weren’t born with the knowledge to do so, that they couldn’t pull the information out of the notes that they needed, that maybe some of them required visuals or other ways of learning…


But the reapplication process has been inexplicably “dumbed down.” It that to make it easier for the teachers to reapply and fill those vacancies which can be so easily filled with the snap of a finger? If the vacancies are easy to fill, why make the application process easier. Why are the interviews a joke? There are applicants who walk out angry, ranting that they felt as though they had been slapped in the face. At least one person I know of walked out when he realized what the process was.


So why has this “fair and transparent process” changed?


Maybe what we need to do at the faculty meeting Tuesday is to take some time and just have every teacher who will not return July 1 simply… stand and be counted. Just stand. Maybe then we can at least see the faces of those who will not be returning. Maybe the B-Trackers can make the trip just to do that. Stand and be counted.


In honor of “dumbing down”, how about a little Sam Cooke? (My God, I have turned into the Count from “Pirate Radio”… Or is that Johnny Fever, from “WKRP in Cincinnati”?)


Wonderful World (Don’t Know Much)—Sam Cooke

“Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book
Don't know much about the French I took

”But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

”Don't know much about geography

”Don't know much trigonometry
Don't know much about algebra

”Don't know what a slide rule is for

”But I know that one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be

”now I don't claim to be an "A" student
But I'm trying to be
for Maybe my being an "A" student baby
I can win your love for me

”Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book
Don't know much about the French I took

”But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be


”but I do know that I love you
and I know that if you love me too
what a wonderful world this would be”


Have a good weekend.



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    Chuck Olynyk is a Social Studies teacher who saw the effects of reconstitution upon John C. Fremont High in Los Angeles. These are reposting of his original blogs from the Save Fremont website.


    August 2010



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